27 June 09 : Prices of key building materials used in farm sheds have fallen significantly over the past 12 to 18 months, a welcome development for any farmer with work to do. Depending on the project on hand, the drop in prices could go much of the way to making up for the absence of grant aid.
The big costs in a farm building are concrete, steel, labour, slats and cladding.
The most dramatic drop has been in reinforcing steel, which has fallen by 50% since the middle of last year. Steel prices are now around €600 per tonne, down from a high of €1,200. Reinforcing steel includes the steel rebar used in effluent tanks and walls and steel mesh used in slabs. These are very much commodity products, and are in surplus around much of the world because of the recession and a construction slowdown.
Structural steel has fallen somewhat less dramatically, by about 40%.
It is typically the steel beams used for shed stanchions and angle irons used in shed roofs. But, price drops vary widely across the different grades of steel.
Concrete prices always vary hugely around the country, but have fallen by 15% to 18% from their peak last year. Builders report, for example, that 35N concrete they were buying for €72 excluding VAT in early 2008 is now costing €65 to €68.
Feed barriers and cubicles have not fallen by as much, as more basic steel items because there is more labour involved, but they’re still down by 15% to 25%.
For example, an adjustable cantilever cubicle that was selling for €75 excluding VAT last year is now selling for about €65. A feed barrier that sold for €300 last year is now selling for about €250.
•Labour prices are all over the place. Labour costs for building contractors have come back by 5% to 10%, with less overtime being worked. However, any farmer doing a building job by direct labour is in a position to make bigger savings.
Slat prices have come down by about 15% to 20%. For example, a typical 14ft six inch slat was selling for €56 to €57 per foot of width at the peak of last year. Now, they are selling at about €49. A 12 ft six inch slat was costing €47 excluding VAT per foot of width last year, but can now be bought for €38 to €40.
Prices for steel cladding have not fallen by anything like the drop seen in reinforcing or even structural steel prices. They are down about 20% from peak. While they are made from steel, there are higher labour and machining costs involved. But, they didn’t spike last year anyway. Prices for fibre cement cladding have fallen by about 10%.
Where do these changes in material and labour prices leave a farmer booking a contractor to have a slab laid or a shed put up? Contractors suggest that quotes for an entire job have come down by 20% to 25%.Within this range, the bigger reductions will be on jobs using large quantities of reinforcing steel, for example walls for a silage slab. Jobs using a lot of concrete and relatively less steel are seeing reductions of around 20%.